Surgical Innovation Could Improve Esophageal Cancer Recovery

According to a story from WGN-TV Chicago, treatment for esophageal cancer can be grueling on patients, even if successful. Surgery is often a critical aspect of the process and can require a hospital stay for close to two weeks—not to mention the feeding tube, which often has to stay in for even longer than that. However, a new, robotic approach to the esophagectomy could make things a littler easier. 

About Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer appears in the passageway from the mouth to the stomach. While it is generally rare, it is a dangerous type of cancer because it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. This is due to the fact that esophageal cancer rarely causes pronounced symptoms in its early stages. There are a number of risk factors, including the consumption of very hot beverages, alcohol, betel nut, and tobacco use, acid reflux, consumption of pickled and processed foods, and obesity. Men are more vulnerable to esophageal cancer than women, since female hormones play a protective role. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, a hoarse voice, weight loss, vomiting blood, swollen lymph nodes, and pain the chest and when swallowing. Even with thorough treatment, five year survival rate in the U.S. is just 15 percent. To learn more about esophageal cancer, click here.

A New Path Forward

Rudy Bland was 77 years old when he was diagnosed with the disease. When he was told about the ordeal of surgery and the time it would take to recover, he decided that he would rather let the cancer take him. But everything changed when he was told about the new approach.

The robotic approach involves creating several small incisions in the abdomen, which allows tiny surgical tools to enter the body without cutting bone or making larger cuts. The tiny tools are controlled by mechanical limbs. The cancerous part of the esophagus is taken out and the upper section of stomach is used to create a new passage to replace the removed portion of the esophagus. 

While the patient’s stomach is altered, this procedure allows them to begin a liquid diet after just three days. Due to the changes to the stomach, patients must alter their eating habits to consuming smaller portions throughout the day instead of three larger meals. Overall though, the recovery is much faster and easier. 

This technique could help patients like Ruby make the best healthcare decisions and improve treatment outcomes.

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